If you’ve ever eaten at a new, hip establishment in Auckland you’ve likely experienced the gastronomic artistry that is Chef Nick Honeyman. By way of The Commons, Dallows and Everybody's Izakaya, Honeyman has left a reputation for delectable and forward-thinking fusions of seasonal Kiwi cuisines with Asian influence – or vice versa.
Thus, with his position as Head Chef at Lava Dining, we were thrilled to open ourselves up to his latest efforts at fine dining – done with aplomb and confident style at a French-owned hotel ensuring a commitment (and expectation) of quality.
Situated on the Viaduct Harbour, Lava Dining forms part of the 5-star Sofitel, with views over the inner harbour and aquatic playthings that mark Auckland as the ‘City of Sails’. Regardless of use, the waterways provide the perfect backdrop for the superb dining you’re bound to experience, whilst surrounded by a contemporary interior. In a nod to French superiority in interior design, the restaurant manages to be sophisticated and modern, with plenty of steel and polished marble slab, yet at the same time warm lighting and colours prevent it feeling cold or uninviting. The result is a locale that can offer an intimate space for two, a business setting to lunch with colleagues or a good spot to settle in for a long lunch with friends.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, the menu is regularly updated to cater for the freshest seasonal ingredients – while the wine list revels in Sofitel’s French origins and ensures the perfect bubbly drop to begin the meal, and exceptional wine matches with your no doubt numerous meal courses. Speaking of which...
When it comes to fusions and innovations, Lava does it supremely well – as entrees like king salmon with chlorophyll dashi, or a French potato velouté paired with onion ice-cream can attest. Both were supremely delicious and pushed far beyond the traditional with great success, not many can claim to have mastered an enjoyable onion ice-cream. Similarly, an offering of a fresh New Zealand clam, scallop and coconut tom yum provide an Asian classic with an inspired local twist.
The main courses display similar flavour combinations, in a slightly safer yet still innovative way – particularly with regard to technique, ensuring Honeyman’s technical skills are showcased and appreciated. The wild mushroom ravioli surpasses its more than palatable base, combining an exotic mixture of mushrooms with walnut crème fraîche, confit tomato and brie custard – to create ridiculously complimentary flavours. Providing a twist on the hotel/businessman’s steak, Lava serves Wakanui beef shin with smoked potato, rainbow coral chard & chimmi churi with master stock – which left us sated and satisfied.
Finally, with far too much contemporary food and French wines consumed you roll around to dessert, where Honeyman again shines combining flavours like coconut brulee, pina colada and pineapple - a fresh and sweet end to the evening. Or go completely off the beaten track and dine on beetroot &cassia bark, spiced cheesecake and burnt palm sugar ice cream.
Regardless of your choice, Lava is an unexpected dining destination that delights - and should the full menu not align with your current life phase, the De-Lite menu is entirely health conscious, low cal and supremely delicious. No matter your caloric decisions, slightly away from the usual routes Lava is worth the trip, satisfying the most discerning of palates with fresh approaches to fine cuisine.